23 Apr 2010 15:56

Russneft ex-head Gutseriyev cleared of criminal charges

MOSCOW. April 23 (Interrax) - The criminal case, opened against businessman Mikhail Gutseriyev on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, has been closed, spokeswoman for the Investigation Committee of the Interior Ministry, Irina Dudukina, told Interfax.

"The charges of illegal entrepreneurship, brought against the ex-head of the Russneft oil company, Mikhail Gutseriyev, have been dropped in the absence of evidence of crime in his actions," Dudukina said.

This decision has to do with changes in legislation, she said.

President Dmitry Medvedev has signed amendments to a package of regulatory acts, including the article in the Criminal Code, titled "Fake Entrepreneurship," of which Gutseriyev was accused.

Gutseriyev set up Russneft following a consolidation of a large number of small production companies. Control over Russneft was taken over by Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element in 2007, and Basel failed to become the oil company's owner in the absence of the go-ahead from Russian regulators.

In the summer of 2009 AFK Sistema showed interest in Russneft. In early 2010 Russneft officially returned to its former owner Gutseriyev, and in late March AFK Sistema inked a deal to buy a 49% stake in Russneft. The value of the deal will depend on whether Russneft will manage to attain the set financial and operating indices, but it will not exceed $100 million in any case.

A source familiar with the situation told Interfax that Gutseriyev will retain operational control over the company after the deal is finalized.